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Review: The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds

Title: The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds

Author: Selina Siak Chin Yoke

Date of Publication: November 1st, 2016


Goodreads Summary:

Facing challenges in an increasingly colonial world, Chye Hoon, a rebellious young girl, must learn to embrace her mixed Malayan-Chinese identity as a Nyonya—and her destiny as a cook, rather than following her first dream of attending school like her brother.

Amidst the smells of chillies and garlic frying, Chye Hoon begins to appreciate the richness of her traditions, eventually marrying Wong Peng Choon, a Chinese man. Together, they have ten children. At last, she can pass on the stories she has heard—magical tales of men from the sea—and her warrior’s courage, along with her wonderful kueh (cakes).

But the cultural shift towards the West has begun. Chye Hoon finds herself afraid of losing the heritage she so prizes as her children move more and more into the modernising Western world.

Erika’s Review:

“The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds” by Selina Siak Chine Yoke is a historical story that will remind most females of their own lives, regardless of taking place in Malaysia.
You follow the view point of Chye Hoon, a mixed heritage (Chinese/ Malayan) young girl who wants to attend school like her brother when the story opens.
She never was able to accomplish that, but had to find ways around it in order to shape her own world in a powerful way.
You see her entire life-from a child that sells dead butterflies and trinkets, to a mother of many children running a household.
The detail rich descriptions of spicy cooking, and the sights and sounds of a changing and increasingly British Malaysia are perfect. They stick with you in a natural way. So, too, do the little moments of motherhood
that might break your heart. I found myself in tears twice finishing this novel.
I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys the works of authors like Amy Tan, but I’d particularly recommend it women who run their own businesses or those considering it. “The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds” is a ballad of perseverance.
It also shows the balancing act of participating in a changing world with helping your family understand where they came from, and the consequences of being dogmatic.
My favorite quote from the beginning of the book, and the one that resonates with me is “In the rooms beyond chattering voices reverberated, while around me, stacked neatly on the floor and on wooden cabinets,were the utensils that would one day be my weapons.”
You can also visit Erika at http://writeathomemothering.blogspot.com/

Guest Post: E. Burden Reviewing Wonderbook

A Writer’s Review of Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff Vandermeer


Goodreads Summary:

This all-new definitive guide to writing imaginative fiction takes a completely novel approach and fully exploits the visual nature of fantasy through original drawings, maps, renderings, and exercises to create a spectacularly beautiful and inspiring object. Employing an accessible, example-rich approach,Wonderbook energizes and motivates while also providing practical, nuts-and-bolts information needed to improve as a writer. Aimed at aspiring and intermediate-level writers,Wonderbook includes helpful sidebars and essays from some of the biggest names in fantasy today, such as George R. R. Martin, Lev Grossman, Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock, Catherynne M. Valente, and Karen Joy Fowler, to name a few.

E. Burden’s Review:

Who doesn’t want to write better fiction? And who doesn’t want the help of a skeleton bird in a tuxedo called Mr. Odd to write better fiction?

Wait, what do you mean you don’t?

You, do, trust me. You just don’t know it yet.

I don’t recommend a pile of writing books. Maybe Damon Knight’s Crafting Short Fiction, and The Writer’s Journey I & II. That’s it. Or, that was it. I accidentally got my hands on Wonderbook, while waiting on my kids to finish their coding camp at the local bookery, I found it hiding in the creative writing section, sitting alongside mostly dated recipe books for putting words onto blank pages. I’m picky about my books, I don’t have much time, and I can’t waste it trying to slog through something bad or unhelpful. The cover art hooked me, you can tell just by the art (and it’s throughout the book) that you’re not walking into one of these text books on creative writing.

This is something new. Something I hadn’t, even as a devourer of creative writing help books, ever come across. You’re guided, mostly open-endedly, through the structures of fiction by little characters to catch your attention, including my favorite skeletal Mr. Odd. There are examples, excerpts of writing advice from the industry’s bests (think Gaiman and George R.R. Martin) and diagrams. But NOT text book diagrams. Real, museum quality art, broken into pieces or labeled to give you understanding of the material you are dealing with.

Writing in this book is treated as a long, customizable recipe. Following blind steps is discouraged, so it won’t read like an instruction manual for furniture, but I promise you will learn more about you, and your specific brand of writing, by the time you finish.

In the introduction, it makes clear that through this book is geared toward those of us who make fantasy, horror, or science-fiction, it’s intended to enhance creativity, which means any writer can find a hidden gem in the text they can polish and use. I absolutely recommend Jeff Vandemeer’s Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction to anyone who writes or anyone who wants to. It’s inspirational, it’s fun, it’s weird, and it does what it says it does.

It was after reading the chapter on viewpoint that I realized I had made an error in my latest work, and upon correcting it, I’ve had an easier time with flow and sticking to events I had outlined. I needed to see that my story was an intimate one, best seen within the main character, and not outside of him (for the most part, since I am guilty of switching views like it’s going out of style). This book isn’t ever going to tell you exactly what to do (unlike most other writing books). But, it shows you many ways to look at and approach even the oldest “rules” in writing to make what you create the best it can be.


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Follow E. Burden

Blog: http://writeathomemothering.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EricaLBurden/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BurdenEl


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